MORRIS SPORTS 850.
Mini has never been a stranger to breaking rules.
So when the Morris Sports 850 - a rare model with a controversial history – hit the road, it made people pay attention.
The Sports 850 was built specifically to qualify for racing – and only sold for two years between 1961 and 1963.
Nobody really knows how many were built, as no records were kept.
The first time the car was put to the test was the 1961 Armstrong 500 at Philip Island, and was the first car in that race subject to allegations of cheating.
Neil Johannesen was the first person to race a Mini in the event and brought a Sports 850 with twin carburettors to the even.
Officials accused him of cheating – but Johannesen was able to provide a telegram straight from BMC, claiming the modification was legal.
The car was taken off the grid and the racing team had to replace them with a standard carburettor from a spectator’s Mini.
To add insult to injury, a rock later smashed the Sports 850’s windscreen. Johannsen then took a replacement off the spectator’s Mini and continued with the race.
But officials weren’t happy with that move either, and he was disqualified, then reinstated in last place.
The controversial debut made people pay attention to the Mini though, impressing spectators with its speed and performance and paving the way for Mini’s spectacular win at the Gallagher 500 five years later.
Five of the Sports 850s competed the following year – this time placing second and third in the 1962 Armstrong 500.
Peter Manton was one of the key people involved in producing the Sports 850, which was sold through two dealerships in Melbourne and Sydney.
The modification - with twin 1 1/4" SU carburettors, special manifolding, tuned exhaust and special Sports 850 badging – was a dealership only model, but earned tentative support from BMC, and ended up retaining a full factory warranty.
It’s not known how many originals still exist today.
Wez Fischer, who owns a Saxon Green Sports 850, says his car which is in original condition and is only one of a few known examples in Australia.
Wez bought his Sports 850 after buying his first car in 1976 and then a Mini Moke.
It’s now part of a small family including a jet red 1969 Mini Cooper S and a black 1974 Mini Moke.